Hughes earns chance to lock down Storm No.7 jersey
When the topic of who would become Cooper Cronk's long-term replacement came up at the start of the year, Jahrome Hughes was not in the conversation but he now has his nose in front in the race to lock down Melbourne's No.7 jersey.
Hughes started at halfback in last weekend's win over the Roosters and has been retained for this Thursday's clash with St George Illawarra at AAMI Park.
Brodie Croft started the season as the heir apparent to Cronk but fell out of favour after an inconsistent first month with Ryley Jacks taking over.
Jacks was left out of the side last week when Hughes partnered Cameron Munster in the halves as the Storm scraped home 9-8 in Adelaide.
With the Storm's star five-eighth away on State of Origin duty with Queensland this week, Jacks will line up alongside Hughes in the halves against the Dragons with Croft providing playmaking value on the bench.
Bellamy is rewarding Hughes for his consistency and decided to give Jacks another opportunity.
"We gave Jahrome a run last week and he was one of our better players I thought," Bellamy said.
"Jacksy was a little bit unlucky to be left out, but will get another chance tomorrow night. It's not easy for those guys - they've never played together in the halves. With our training sessions this week, we've just tried to build a couple of simple combinations there."
Bellamy is banking on his team grinding out a win against the first-placed St George Illawarra side, despite fielding a depleted backline due to Origin committments.
The premiers are missing Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Munster and Josh Addo-Carr in their backline, with Tim Glasby and Felise Kaufusi dropping out of their pack.
Cheyse Blair and Justin Olam will start in the centres while Christian Welch gets a chance at prop in place of Glasby.
"We've got a few guys missing obviously," Bellamy said.
"So it's basically grit the teeth and hang on this week. We'll need to defend well and hopefully hang on to the ball and get to our kicks.
"We've got a lot of changes. We haven't had a whole heap of preparation. But we're used to this at Origin time."
The Storm coach also felt like the high-flying Dragons would take time to get over the representative round and now Origin.
"I don't think they've had a big representation in Origin over the past few years, where this year they have. With a couple of their top players in Gareth (Widdop) and James (Graham) having to go to Denver, we saw the effect it had on Nelson. It's a new experience for them this year, having so many in rep footy."
Bellamy also spoke about the importance of the deciding Origin game for his players, in particular Slater as it's his last appearance for his state.
"As a club this week, with Origin on, we understand what a big game it is," he said.
"(Not only) because we're affected player-wise, but with Billy playing his last Origin, being captain for the first time and playing his 31st Origin, we know the Queenslanders are going to get up for that."